Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Circular Firing Squad of the 'Defund Obamacare' Movement

'You don't agree 100% with me!' each of them said.
Now, you must die!'
Try as we might, we are having difficulty understanding the whole 'Defund Obamacare!' movement by those who want to use the continuing resolution to fund everything BUT Obamacare and avoid a government shutdown.

On the face of it, it may 'sound' like a good approach to the people who hate Obamacare and there are millions of them.

On further reflection, however, it will not succeed and will only add more fuel to the fire of the internal debate now gripping the Republican Party nationwide.

Here's a pretty good article that summarizes the issue in a recent edition of 'The Atlantic' by Molly Ball if you want to catch up to speed on it.

First off, let it be said that we are for virtually any effort that will reduce the size and scope of government and reduce the tax burden on hard-working Americans. We believe that 'the best government is that which governs least' as Thomas Jefferson put it because why would we want a concentrated power in Washington today to mimic the monarchical powers of the British king who ticked off our forefathers in the first place?

We also don't get how so many of the 'Anti-Establishment' hippies of the 1960's who were against 'The Man' in Washington are now so pro-'Big Government' and who love Obamacare and more regulations and laws on just about everything it seems nowadays.

Maybe this ad about 'This is your brain on drugs' really is true after all.

We have seen efforts before by opponents in Congress to try to 'defund' a measure they deemed 'unpopular' that was passed by a President of the opposite party or a previous Congress.

The very first effort came in 1795 during President George Washington's first term over the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. Try as they might, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson tried to 'defund' it probably by refusing to fund the customs offices that would regulate trade with England.

They lost. The Jay Treaty went into effect and the era of 'non-partisanship' in American politics died an ignominious death roughly 3 years into its history.

There have been numerous other efforts to 'defund' a bill here and there throughout American history. We were part of several efforts to 'defund' this or that or the other in the US House of Representatives while working with a band of revolutionaries in the 1980's under the direction of a firebrand known as Newt Gingrich and other guys such as Jack Kemp, Trent Lott and Bob Walker of Pennsylvania.

Guess what? We lost too. All of them.


Because Republicans were close to an 85-seat minority in the US House for the entire decade we were there!

We don't want to say we were entirely non-effective because some good came out of those efforts a decade later in budget terms at least. But one Texas congressman's assessment of our being about 'as useful as tits on a bull' still rings in our memory banks for some reason.

Republicans had President Reagan in the White House from 1980-1988 and GWH Bush 41 from 1988-1992 AND the majority in the US Senate for most of the time...and we still could not get anything 'defunded' even though Republicans controlled 1 House of Congress and the Executive Branch!

Republicans control only the US House today the last time we checked. They could pass any law they want to pass but unless the Senate also passes it in the same form and the President signs it, it is not going to become the law of the land. That is the way our Founders set up the government and those are the rules of the game as they say in golf. 'The rub of the green' in golfing vernacular.

The single and only time we ever saw anything of any size of substance get 'defunded' or repealed was when a bunch of little old ladies were banging their umbrellas against the hard head of Democratic Ways and Means Chairman Danny Rostenkowski of Chicago in defiance of the aptly-named 'Catastrophic Health Bill' of 1988.

They didn't want to pay the higher fees (sound familiar?) of a national health plan (familiar again?). These little old ladies vented their displeasure at senior citizens homes around the nation but especially in Chicago where news reports showed Rosty lunging into his limo to get away from these mad ladies.

The 'difference' between then and now? Unless you are willing to engage in 'civil disobedience', which is what these little old ladies were doing, kinda, and start banging your Congressman or Senator over the head with an umbrella while they are home on summer recess, these representatives will go back to Washington assuming 99.9% of their constituents don't care enough to express displeasure with Obamacare.

You either defeat people at the ballot box to overturn laws in America. Or you resort to civil disobedience which we have referred to previously in another post this summer.

(One funny sidenote: A woman who later worked in our office said she was at a meeting of Republican health staffers about this time and she said: 'Well, who was the dumb bastard who came up with that bright idea?' The health care staff director at Ways and Means at the time sheepishly raised his hand and said: 'It was me'.

They were married a couple of years later. Only in Washington will such love blossom)

We see absolutely no way that this 'Defund Obamacare!' through the continuing resolution will result in any diminution of Obamacare or even delay it for a couple of months. The 2012 presidential election was the last real chance for opponents of Obamacare to vote in new people to truly 'defund' or derail Obamacare. They could have helped elect Mitt Romney to the White House and a new GOP Majority to the US Senate in sufficient numbers to do so in compliance with the dreams of some House Republicans.

But millions stayed home. Today, in one of the oddest quirks ever, Tea Party Republicans are now turning on their own Republican colleagues and urging primary challenges to them in 2014 instead of focusing all their energies in defeating Democrats in the US Senate next year! Which will do nothing to change the makeup of the US Senate. The White House can't be changed until the elections of 2016, that's a fact they have to come to grips with.

So why do this 'Defund Obamacare' right now?

A circular firing squad is an idiom for a group that is in such disagreement and disarray that they would rather kill each other off instead of uniting to defeat a common enemy.

Go into the House Republican Conference in Washington DC nowadays and you may find that it is not really an 'idiom' but a sad fact of life.

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